Topcoat Darkened Maple (No Stain Used)

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Forum topic by rufus2 posted 03-06-2013 08:30 PM 2017 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 2235 days

03-06-2013 08:30 PM

About 3 months ago I topcoated some soft maple with General Finishes High Performance. Sanded to 220 and applied 4 coats. Got it out to help pick out flooring to match and it had darkened a great deal. I wanted the natural look, no stain just a hard finish topcoat. The maple is what my husband is making our kitchen cabinets out of. Should I have used Zinsser seal coat first?? Appreciate any input as my husband is making the doors and don’t have time to wait to see if I get the same results.

Thanks, Rufus2

-- Ruth, Missouri

10 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4184 days

#1 posted 03-06-2013 09:47 PM

Am I correct that the General Finishes product you used is water based? I have not used that brand, but generally speaking, water-based polyurethanes are about the clearest finishes you can get. You could try another brand, but I don’t think you’ll get much clearer results.

Unless there was something wrong with your batch of finish, this does not seem normal.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View PaulJerome's profile


57 posts in 2999 days

#2 posted 03-06-2013 11:00 PM

The General Finishes wasn’t the problem. My guess is that the wood was not maple.

-- Paul, Central Illinois

View RogerInColorado's profile


321 posts in 1920 days

#3 posted 03-07-2013 12:08 AM

Water born polyurethane will give the wood a “washed out” look rather than darken it. Seal coat would have darkened it a little. You can verify that by just getting a can of spray shellac and laying on a coat. Seal Coat is just a thinned shellac.

If the darkening occurred immediately, you could suspect the finish in the can. If the finished board was exposed to UV then the sugars in the wood are the cause of the darkening. I don’t think GFHP has any UV inhibitors. Take a new sample board, unfinished, and put it in the sun for a few days and compare the results to your finished sample.

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2327 days

#4 posted 03-07-2013 12:37 AM

Forget the gobbledygook. Compare your result with the bare wood. What you see is what you get. If you still have a question, call the manufacturer’s technical support.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2602 days

#5 posted 03-07-2013 02:00 AM

If you wanted natural look, you got it. Maple and almost all other woods darken with age and more specifically sunlight. If whatever you used gets some light during the day this is most certainly what you see.

View rufus2's profile


7 posts in 2235 days

#6 posted 03-07-2013 06:35 PM

Thanks for all your replies. I did contact GF and Sheryl said much the same thing. Will darken somewhat but I assumed it would stay pretty much the same color before applying the topcoat. Did not use Zinsser Universal Seal Coat. Not complaining and realize that, at least with soft maple we have, there are variances in color of the raw wood. That’s why I chose to go natural and instead of stain because the variances showed up too much with stain. Yes, High Performance is a waterbase and highly recommended for kitchen cabinets.

Thanks again,


-- Ruth, Missouri

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3124 days

#7 posted 03-07-2013 06:55 PM

It shouldn’t darken that much. GF HP even has UV inhibitors to help in that regard. Are you sure it’s maple and not cherry?

-- jay,

View rufus2's profile


7 posts in 2235 days

#8 posted 03-07-2013 10:13 PM

Absolutely, it is soft maple bought from a reputable local company out of St. Louis, MO. I will take pictures tomorrow.

Thanks again!


-- Ruth, Missouri

View DS's profile


2894 posts in 2386 days

#9 posted 03-07-2013 10:51 PM

Natural Maple is an odd species…

UV light (aka sunlight) will darken Maple on its own. It adds yellow to the mix as it ages. Veneers yellow faster than solid wood too. (Don’t really know why, its just been my experience).
Finishes can yellow with age also and I don’t know anything about the finish you used.

Maple is also Photo-reactive. Meaning, it will appear lighter, or darker, based on the angle the light reflects off of it.
If you don’t think so, look at a frame and panel door. Choose which stile or rail looks darkerst and which looks lightest. Then, rotate the door 90 degrees and see that the darkest and lightest componants have changed places.

So, your issue may not be anything with the finish, but just how you are holding the workpeice today vs how you held it before.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View rufus2's profile


7 posts in 2235 days

#10 posted 03-08-2013 01:15 PM

Absolutely DS251, found turning the piece I practiced on in the different light, inside, outside, did indeed change the color. It was mind twisting and while experimenting with stains, that’s when I decided “heck with this” I’ll just go natural. Seems each piece of wood has different shades, i.e., some lighter and some darker on the same piece. But that’s the nature of the beast. I’m confident that it will look just fine. Thanks for confirming what I had experienced too. I’m a newbie and appreciate everyone’s input.


-- Ruth, Missouri

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